The PDIT database includes five types of incentives: 1) property tax abatements, 2) customized job-training grants, 3) job-creation tax credits, 4) investment tax credits, and 5) research and development (R&D) tax credits. The database also includes three types of business taxes: 1) property taxes, 2) state corporate income taxes, and 3) state and local sales taxes paid on business inputs.

The 33 states included are detailed in the report. Together, they constitute over 90 percent of U.S. output. The 26 years included are from 1990 to 2015. For each of these 26 years, the database provides information on the taxes paid and incentives received by a business for a new hypothetical facility started in that year. The taxes paid and incentives received by the facility are then followed for a 20-year simulation period from that starting year, based on the assumption that the tax and incentive system remains the same for the 20-year simulation time period.

The 45 industries included encompass over 90 percent of U.S. labor compensation. They include 31 "export-base" industries and 14 "non-export-base" industries. In regional economics jargon, export-base industries are industries that sell their goods and services outside the state or local economy, not just those industries that sell outside the United States. The 31 export-base industries include 19 manufacturing industries and 12 nonmanufacturing industries. For a variety of reasons, economic development policies to improve a state or local economy are often believed to be appropriately targeted at export-base industries. Intuitively, it is understood that export-base industries bring new money into a state, and non-export-base industries do not. States do seem in large part to target export-base industries in awarding incentives.